Humanities Information

Medieval Siege Weaponry: Castle Walls Beware

Medieval siege weaponry was required in any self-respecting war leader's arsenal in a time when castles with thick defense walls were common and cities surrounded by large, fortified walls were not out of place.

With warfare commonplace, it's little wonder the variety of medieval siege weaponry is great. After all, what was an attacking band of raiders to do when presented with an "impenetrable" castle wall? Break it down, of course, using one of the many designs of medieval siege weaponry available.

One of the earliest examples of medieval siege weaponry appeared around the 300s AD when the ballista was created. The ballista wasn't the most accurate in the line of medieval siege weaponry, but it could launch a wave of spears further than human arms could muster. Created using two wooden arms, tightly wound ropes and a cord to assist in the hurling of deadly projectiles, this example of medieval siege weaponry used torsion force to launch objects.

The Romans added their own model to the list of medieval siege weaponry when they created the mangonel. This model called for only one wooden arm. The mangonel, however, had somewhat of a design flaw in that in called for a wooden barrier to be constructed.

A ferocious example of medieval siege weaponry came online in the 12th century with the deploying of the trebuchet.

The trebuchet used a long wooden arm rested on a pivot point, which acted as a large lever. A projectile was placed on one end and warriors in this earlier version of the trebuchet pulled on ropes attached to the other end to essentially swing the arm around and hurl the stone.

As far as examples of commonly used medieval siege weaponry are concerned, however, catapults and their sister designs do not hold the only billing. Other tools were readily available to would-be conquerors.

The battering ram, for example, has been used through the ages and still is employed by modern law enforcement.

This version of medieval siege weaponry involved the creation of a very heavy weight placed on wheels used to help batter fortifications. It was usually made of a large tree trunk, and sometimes rather than wheels, a group of warriors or a sling frame helped provide the force necessary to crack fortifications using this simple, yet effective, example of medieval siege weaponry.

Other items in the medieval siege weaponry arsenal included ladders and not-so-simple siege towers. Ladders were employed simply to scale castle walls. If the defenses stopped this measure, siege towers might be built to allow archers clear lines of attack to enemies standing on castle walls.

As far as medieval siege weaponry is concerned, siege towers were somewhat difficult due to their cumbersome nature. Towers were rectangular and often constructed on four wheels. They were as tall as the castle walls or taller and were designed to protect archers, warriors and ladders as an army advanced. The downfall of siege towers in the long line of medieval siege weaponry, however, was their size and the propensity of the defending army to hurl projectiles at them.

The examples of medieval siege weaponry vary greatly, but whatever their design they all had one purpose - to deliver an army to victory.

For more medieval siege weapons information, including how to build a catapult, visit

Garben Catapult updates the information for, a site filled with over 100 pages of interesting information covering many aspects of medieval castles and medieval weapons.


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